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Open Source Your Rights Online

Hosting Company Appears To Be Violating the GPL [Resolved] 418

Posted by kdawson
from the ten-years-is-long-enough-for-anyone dept.
palegray.net writes "A web hosting provider called Appnor has recently moved the network diagnostics utility WinMTR off of SourceForge, and is now claiming the program to be a closed source, commercial application (it was previously made available under the GPL). I emailed the current maintainer of the original mtr utility about this, and have been informed that this event most likely constitutes an overt GPL violation, as it is presumed that WinMTR contains mtr code. Appnor claims that they have the right to do this, as there have been no external contributions to WinMTR in over ten years. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think copyright law works that way." Update: 01/10 18:24 GMT by KD : The CEO of Appnor, Dragos Manac, has posted a response, claiming that no GPL violation occurred, and promising to revert the code to GPLv2 by the end of the week.
Update: 01/11 14:01 GMT by KD : That was fast. WinMTR announced that the code is now available under the GPLv2.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hosting Company Appears To Be Violating the GPL [Resolved]

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  • by Nursie (632944) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:00AM (#34822472)

    It's been extended to the ridiculous, remember?

    So even if they've somehow removed all the GPL code contributed by others, then there's the whole 'derivative works' thing.

  • You're quite correct (Score:5, Interesting)

    by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowl@nOspaM.excite.com> on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:05AM (#34822528) Journal

    Unless everyone who originally submitted code to the GPL project has explicitly agreed to the relicensing, they're breaking the law. You don't "implicitly" agree to relicensing of code you've submitted just by not contributing any more for a while. The only time that a time frame comes into it is when the copyright actually expires and the project falls into the public domain, which in our era of life-plus and Mickey Mouse Copyright Perpetuation Acts, is basically never. This is the exact type of scenario the GPL was designed to prevent.

  • by pe1rxq (141710) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:11AM (#34822604) Homepage Journal

    The post just mentions it is 'presumed' that it was based on mtr...
    I find that a bit week. First you have to prove that there ever was mtr code in winMTR, then you accuse them with a GPL violation.... Either the summary is incomplete/incorrect, or the submitter is jumping to the second part without doing enough fact checking.

  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:32AM (#34823532) Homepage Journal

    1) The company has rights over the entire source code, bought from the original maintainer. There is NO other code from contributors.

    2) The whole thing is written from scratch for Windows. No MTR code is used.

    If the code for v0.9 looks anything like this [google.com], no it doesn't. There are direct copies from Matt's Traceroute (mtr), so I've forked your previous Sourceforge project, as is my right under the GNU General Public License.

  • by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me&hotmail,com> on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:33AM (#34823554) Homepage Journal

    They aren't saying that MTR hasn't been updated. They have sometime in the past created WinMTR, hosted it on SourceForge as GPL and OpenSource, but in the past ten years never had anyone but themselves making changes. So... they decided to convert to a commercial license! Now I'm not arguing that this is right since original MTR source likely still exists within it but the ideas that they are denying MTR as having been updated is incorrect.. This is sort of like how other products have gone from OpenSource to closed in the past when no one was helping out except the original developers... except that in this case they aren't the very original developers having converted someone else's code some ten years in the past. It's not clear if they have continued to use updates to the original MTR code or not.

    Here's the post from their page in case it's still Slashdotted...
    ========
    Present (2010-2011)

    WinMTR is managed and developed by Appnor MSP.

    The current version is 0.9. We plan to roll out a new version each quarter. More in the Development section.

    License: Commercial. We changed it from GPL since in the last 10 years there was no external development. Still, we plan to offer it for free.

    WinMTR has got a new home, moved out of Sourceforge on to WinMTR.net!
    Past (2000-2010)

    The WinMTR project was started in 2000 by our good friend Vasile Laurentiu Stanimir.

    Timeline:

            * 20.01.2002 – Last entered hosts an options are now hold in the registries. Home page and development moved to Sourceforge.
            * 05.09.2001 – Replace edit box with combo box which hold last entered hostnames. Fixed a memory leak which caused program to crash after a long time running. (v0.7)
            * 11.27.2000 – Added resizing support and flat buttons. (v0.6)
            * 11.26.2000 – Added copy data to clipboard and possibility to save data to file as text or HTML. (v0.5)
            * 08.03.2000 – Added double-click on host name in list for detailed information. (v0.4)
            * 08.02.2000 – fix ICMP error codes handling. Print an error message corresponding to ICP_HOST_UNREACHABLE error code instead of a empty line. (v0.3)
            * 08.01.2000 – support for full command-line operations (v0.2)
            * 07.28.2000 – first release (v0.1)

    Future (2011-2038)

    We plan to further develop WinMTR, keep it running on newer platforms and add the requested functionality. Find out how you can help by reading the Development page.

  • As others have noted, several people have apparently found mtr sources in WinMTR. This means either (1) you've been misinformed, (2) you're deliberately lying, or (3) they're lying. Given that people have posted actual code excerpts to back up their claims, I strongly suspect you're lying.
  • Re:Abandonware? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nharmon (97591) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:46AM (#34823696) Homepage

    The concept of Abandonware does seem to be in-line with the original purpose of copyright; to grant creators the ability to make money from their creations. If creators are no longer interested in making money from a specific creation, then there is no need for the copyright. All this talk about piracy and copyright infringement is really a red herring from people who want to turn copyright into perpetual property rights rather than time-limited monopolies.

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:49AM (#34823744)

    Because plots are copyrightable, the actual functionality of code is not.

    Since when can plots be copyrighted? Most of the publishing industry would vanish overnight if that was the case.

    Are you claiming that if I was to take the Windows source, rewrite each function myself so it no longer contains Windows code, and then release it, Microsoft wouldn't have a zillion lawyers outside my house the next day?

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday January 10, 2011 @12:21PM (#34824904)

    "boy discovers he's a wizard, has adventures" is not copyrightable.

    but try writing a non-parody book about a boy wizard Larry Cotter who's parents are killed by Lord Woldemort who himself was almost killed in the attempt to kill that boy who now lives with non-magical step parents who hate magic who is then on his xth birthday suddently visited by a large and imposing groundskeeper who delcares that he's a wizard and whisks him off to a magical school where he quickly makes 2 friends and had adventures involving a magical train, a flying car, a tree which hits people, werewolves,giant spiders, dragons, a touranemt with a couple of others schools, some version of rugby/football played on broomsticks etc along with the evil overlord returning every book or so to try to kill him....

    then you might be in trouble.

    http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/how-closely-can-my-novel-follow-the-plot-of-a-copy-141663.html [avvo.com]

    The problem remains where to draw the line. The orphan who discovers that her parents were murdered by a villain and sets out to avenge their death is an unprotectable cliche. But every copyrightable work is a compendium of uncopyrightable components -- namely, words.

    So looking at what you've written, those are such broad strokes that I would expect any US court to hold that it does not infringe JK Rowling's copyrights. Then again, if you were to keep to the outlines of what you describe, but were to divide and sequence the chapters precisely as JK Rowling did, I wouldn't be surprised if the court went the other way. Clearly on the other side of the line, if you were to scan and OCR a Harry Potter book and find and replace "wizard" with "solar knight" and "Voldemort" with "Galactina," you'd probably end up paying the fees of Ms. Rowling's lawyers.

    there's massive leeway given to things being "inspired by" previous work but if you go too far you end up at the bad end of a copyright suite.

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